So the NHL has poo-pooed the 102-million, 17-year Ilya Kovalchuk contract. They’ve kicked the feet out from under the Devils, Kovalchuk and his agent, Jay Grossman. As usual, the decision has divided fans and media, and why not? The league has allowed these deals to go through for several years now. See Hossa, Marian; Luongo, Roberto; DiPietro, Rick. There are others, but these are the ones chiefly referenced as precedent-setting.
What’s the big deal?
When you were a kid, your parents likely let you get away with a few things here and there which they told you not to do. Maybe curfew was 11pm (and not a minute past). Yet you stretched it…11:03, 11:05…slowly, gradually testing the limits, hoping that one day you could comfortably stroll in at midnight without a hassle. Until the day that you came in at 11:07. Such a small infraction, but Dad takes the keys away. A little harsh? I guess, since you had been getting away with it with no repercussions. So what’s different this time? Johnny gets home a few minutes late all the time…heck, everyone does! Too bad. You knew the rules and you kept stretching them. You HAD to know it was going to bite you at some point. Shame on you if you didn’t. Your anger is probably more out of embarassment than anything else.
Fine, the Devils didn’t break any rules. They’ve (not so cleverly) exploited a legal loophole. But it’s bullshit and you know it. Yes, they should have put the kibosh on these sorts of deals long ago. But slowly, teams have been testing the limits of realism with these deals. The NHL has had enough, and if the early indications are correct, the New Jersey Devils are not going to appeal the decision. Translation: “Ok, you got me, you got me!”
Because Bettman and friends didn’t correct past mistakes doesn’t mean he shouldn’t fix what he can now. It’s the same stupid, lazy argument with headshots. “Well, Mike Richards went unpunished, so did Matt Cooke, so why should Ovechkin be punished?”. Sorry to use parent-speak here, but two wrongs don’t make a right.
When negotiations on the CBA are opened, the NHL will attempt to close this loophole. If the players have any smarts about them, they’ll allow it to be closed for their own good. Matt Reitz, blogger from View From My Seats has good reasons why. Basically, it’s one word: Escrow.
Might I suggest that the NHL insist on having contracts approved by the league before any formal announcement is made by the team? For a league that is often accused of being a laughing stock, having fluffy press conferences to announce the signing of the league’s most coveted free agent, only to torpedo the whole thing is highly embarassing. And while we’re at it, didn’t this press conference seem like the equivalent of a football team lining up to get the next play in after they know they just benefitted from a questionable call just seconds earlier? I could be wrong, but it seems like the Devils thought if they threw this press conference, they’d essentially be daring the league to negate this deal, lest they get egg on their face.
For once, the league has done the right thing. It sucks for the Devils, who may not get Kovalchuk back, and it really sucks for their fans, but that’s too bad. Lou Lamoriello pretty much had his hand forced by ownership to make the deal happen (need proof? LouLam said he didn’t like the Hossa deal and he rolled his eyes at the structure and length of the DiPietro deal. Why do it yourself unless you were being pressured by your boss to get it done?).
What’s your take?